The thing about Zazen is that it's a unique, intimate, (and maybe slightly quirky) experience. Don't bother here if you're the sort of person who seeks familiarity. If you like to walk into a hotel room anywhere in the world and know where the hairdryer is, book into the Four Seasons (or a Travelodge!) I'm sure that 'star' ratings vary by country anyway, so I arrived here with my only expectations based on price per night (cheaper than some of the other 'luxury' brands available locally, but certainly not 'bargain basement')-a week's rest on the beach following a 10 day tour in the north of the country, and little or no pre conceived ideas about exactly what services or room facilities to expect (it had been suggested and booked for me by a Thai specialist travel consultancy). They were surpassed.
I was (unexpectedly) travelling alone, so a little apprehensive about how I would be treated in a place that appeared to be quite 'couples-orientated'...I need not have worried. I shall mention some of the facilities, but the most important and unique thing about Zazen is the team of truly wonderful staff.
The greeting I received was delightful - I was only barely aware of the (few) formalities as cold towels and a fresh fruit punch were dispensed in the beautiful and tranquil reception area (set over water). I was then shown around the resort (and introduced to some more staff on the way). My 'deluxe garden villa' was a pleasant surprise - a raised dias on which the low comfy bed rested, lots of thoughtful amenities in the room were provided and there was a verandah for sitting outside.
Although initially surprised that ALL the villa's toilet facilities were 'outdoor' (although 'en-suite' of course...) I soon got used to this - the bathroom felt private and I was unaware of others due to the 'sensitive' positioning of the villas, at angles...There are only 26 rooms or so, organised in groups of 4, surrounded by lush tropical vegetation. And the bathrooms have high walls, just really 'open' for a few centimetres between the sloping roof and the wall. The only intermittent issue I experienced was with the water pressure in the shower, something that I understand, given the age of the infrastructure, so I did not feel it necessary to mention this minor issue to the staff team, as I'm sure that there is little that can be done about it- I just spent a few moments more than usual relaxing in the shower! The next day another minor problem with my room was immediately rectified with a move to a more suitable villa for me.
Throughout my stay, I was greeted at every turn with a smile of recognition, a polite enquiry about my day and a question: 'can I do anything else'? When the staff began to get to know my 'routine', loungers were reserved, my favourite pre-lunch cocktail suggested at the right time, and one morning when I missed breakfast due to having felt slightly unwell during the night, two waitresses appeared at the door to my villa, unbidden, with fruit and pastries (from the lovely and substantial breakfast buffet) to check I was okay as they hadn't seen me and wanted to ensure that I'd eaten!
I treated myself to a massage in the spa on my first day, which was one of the best I've had, with the therapist communicating well and offering a very relaxing treatment in a beautiful setting next to a koi fish pond. You can get much cheaper massages locally, but I really enjoyed the calm and tranquil setting and little touches (nice shower, gown,locker, tea etc) that I think make it worth paying the extra for: an occasional treat.
The hotel is situated next to a little inlet, at the quiet end of the bay, although Bohput village is only a pleasant 15 minute stroll away along the beach. If you don't want to walk through sand and surf on the gently sloping beach in a tropical climate, there is always the road which runs directly parallel to the beach and has shops and amenities all along to the village. There are plenty of drinking and dining options in Bohput, and it is MUCH quieter than Chaweng, a 10 minute taxi ride away.
The pool at Zazen is beautiful - boutique, rather than olympic dimensions, as I would expect in a hotel of this style and size but set beautifully with a jacuzzi and partly shaded by a beautiful (?lotus) tree...gorgeous!
Koh Samui is a tropical island. Therefore, there are mosquitos. The staff come round every night with coils which burn for several hours in the verandah and bathroom, and helpfully the hotel provides lots of 'in room' options to minimise any bother from the little blighters - without going down the route of boxing the customers in glass. It is not necessary to take precautions against malaria here. If you are scared of the odd bite: take personal spray repellent, cover up, or go on holiday to somewhere cold!
The beach is lovely, with warm sea and enough activity to 'people watch' if you're bored with your Jackie Collins (other novelists are available...) But the beach sellers (like all the other Thai people I encountered on this trip) were, to a person, happy, smiling and content to just ask politely if you would like to buy anything and then move on if the offer was declined. A special mention too for Den, the beach boy who spends all day straightening towels, moving loungers and parasols into/out of the sun, serving cold flannels and complimentary fruit, and reminding guests to drink water (and order something from the extensive beach menu for lunch!)
The restaurant at Zazen has the reputation of being one of the finest on the island. It is also very romantic, lit by Moroccan style lamps and hundreds of candles. On my second night I sat in the bar for a drink and chatted with the young and extremely personable maitre d' (sorry I neglected to check your name). He was kind enough to indulge my rusty attempts at French too! I expressed some little anxiety about dining alone in a sea of couples. No problem, he said, you will have a corner table if you prefer, and I will make sure you are well looked after. I booked for a couple of days hence, in the evening, and was rewarded, on arrival, by the maitre d' offering the option of moving my seating position so that I could look out to sea if I preferred, in case I felt gawped at by the other couples! I took my ipad and discreetly read between courses....and ate a beautiful lobster based 'discovery' menu, and drank a great bottle of French wine.
The service was of the highest personal quality that I have experienced in some years. Fang the lovely bar lady and her trainee Chai also made my stay memorable, spending time chatting and laughing with me whilst attempting to teach me some Thai words and phrases.
If you are hoping for some good wine each night though, deep pockets are required, apparently at least in part due to a 400% import tax or something...I stuck most of the time to a cocktail or beer, although the hotel sells a surprisingly pleasant Thai white called (I think) 'Monsoon Ridge' which at about twenty five quid a bottle is probably the cheapest wine drinking option!
The quality of personal service, small number of rooms (therefore guests) and amenities here make this place feel more like an exclusive club. The hotel's room pricing policy, when set alongside the standards of amenities and service, make this VERY good value in my book. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay and look forward to holidaying here again -'solo' or with someone special - in the future. Thank you Zazen for looking after me so well. Richard F.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Zazen is a stylish true Boutique Resort located on the beautiful Bophut Beach. Perfect for a relaxing holiday and a romantic honeymoon. Zazen offers 26 stylish villas, and 2 of the most popular restaurants on the island with traditional Thai cuisine and fine French / Mediterranean dining. Le Spa Zen will help you find the deepest levels of relaxation. Welcome to Zazen! ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Zazen Boutique Hotel Bophut
- Zazen Boutique Resort And Spa
- Zazen Boutique Resort & Spa Ko Samui/Bophut